BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

Global Health and Child Labor



Globally, over 100 million children work in hazardous environment in various sectors including agriculture, mining and domestic labor. On some farms, children work long hours under extreme weather conditions, exposed to nicotine and toxic pesticides that cause sicknesses. In Africa, Asia, and Latin America, child laborers work underground, using toxic mercury to process gold, increasing the risk of brain damage and other serious health conditions. In Nigeria more specifically, child labor remains a major source of concern despite many legislative means to end it. The number of children under the age of 14 who work in Nigeria is estimated at 15 million. Common examples of jobs Nigerian children are involved in include street vendors, beggars, car washers, bus conductors and shoe makers. Others leave their families at an early age to work as apprentices, mechanics, hairdressers, tailors, house maids, domestic servants and farm hands. The most common practice of child labor in Nigeria is the use of children as child domestics or domestic maids.

International Labor Organization (ILO) defines child labor as any work that deprives a child of his or her childhood including the potential for personal, social, emotional, physical and mental development. Most countries define children by age- In Nigeria for example, a child is defined as an individual who is below eighteen (18) years of age. There are various kinds of child labor with the most extreme case involving slavery. Factors that determine if some kinds of work can be termed child labor include: the age of the child, the type and number of hours worked, the conditions under which the work is performed and the objectives or purpose of the work in the individual countries. Work which constitutes child labor refers one to one or more of the following:

  • Any work that is mentally, socially or morally dangerous
  • Any work that interferes with schooling by taking away the opportunity to attend school or that requires combining school attendance with excessively long and heavy work
  • Any work that is physically harmful to health or safety, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, and condones any form of abuse
  • Any work that constitutes slavery such as the sale and trafficking, debt bondage and serfdom and forced or compulsory labor, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflicts
  • Hawking and unwilling separation from loved ones or abandonment at a very early age
  • The use, acquisition or offering of a child for prostitution, pornography illicit activities and drug trafficking

Research shows that child workers exhibit poor educational achievements because they have insufficient time to study, rest and engage fully in school activities. Major causes of child labor include widespread poverty, rapid urbanization, breakdown in extended family connections, high school drop-out rates, and lack of implementation of laws designed to protect children. Sadly, children are made to work in order to contribute to family’s income and survival. Monies earned by children have become a significant part of income in poor families. These children often experience fatigue, irregular attendance at school, lack of comprehension and motivation, exposure to risk of sexual abuse and involvement in crime either as perpetuators or victims and drop out from school.

Thankfully, international organizations such as Human Rights Watch and ILO work to abolish child labor and to ensure that all children are protected from jobs that interfere with their health, safety, and education.

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